Sunshine and Darkness

My granddaughter, Little Tweetie Pie came over today.  Spending time with that adorable six-year-old is always entertaining.  In her, I get to see facets of the personalities of many of my loved ones.

Little Tweetie Pie is a delightful and enthusiastic chatterbox like her Aunt, my daughter Grumpy Pants.  She’s imaginative and restless like her uncle, my youngest son, Busy Buzz.  She has a bright, pretty smile like her beautiful mother Kitchen Queen and she’s smart and funny like her father, my oldest child Angry Eyes.

I always enjoy Little Tweetie Pie.  I love listening to her sing and watching her play.  We spend lots of weekends together and have done so since she was an infant.  “Babysitting” her is one of the great pleasures of my life.

Time with Little Tweetie Pie makes me wonder about her great-grandmother, my mother who I like to call Sunshine (not to her face, of course).

Sunshine and I are both grandmothers, but I’m actually reveling in it.  When Little Tweetie Pie was born, I thought – well, hoped — it would be fun to share the grandmother experience with my mother.  She simply prefers not to.  She’s shown no interest in sharing the experience and makes very little effort to enjoy it either.  She also didn’t take any joy in sharing the motherhood experience with me when I started having children.

For better or worse, our relationship with our Mom affects us our entire lifetime. It helps define who and what we are. It especially affects that all important entity called self-esteem.  Many use words like inspiring, uplifting, encouraging and loving to describe that relationship and it’s legacy. And then there’s my sisters and me….

We’d use different, less pleasant words on this subject.  It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Sunshine isn’t terribly thrilled that we were born.

As a mother of three, I know it’s entirely possible to be put off by facets of our own children’s personalities.  Bringing up children is not an easy task.  They can be irritating and exasperating.  So, can we be parents and still dislike things about our kids at times?  Sure.

When I say our mother dislikes her daughters, I’m not just talking about her disapproving of one sister’s outspokenness or another’s style of dress. Since our childhood, she’s consistently found us wanting in appearance, intellect, parenting, and a host of other aspects.  Among her favorite tools are ridicule, mockery, derision, contempt, insults and criticism.  She’s unfailingly mean, rude and overflowing with negativity.

I continue to believe my mother, difficult though she is, loves her children.  But she badly mismanages the disappointments and frustrations of everyday life.  She’s erratic and volatile and totally oblivious to anything outside of herself.  She could and should seek therapy according to her doctor, but she refuses to do it because she doesn’t want anyone to think she’s “crazy.”  As a result, of course, her behavior is increasingly crazy by the day.

Since she has for years steadfastly resisted the very notion of getting treatment from a mental health professional, her actions have required us to develop coping mechanisms to maintain our own mental health.  It’s either that or get used to the bad stuff.  Actually, we’ve pretty much gotten used to lot of bad stuff.

I myself decided years ago to focus on my own life and family.  I realized as a young adult that I was not going to have the kind of mother-daughter relationship with my mother that I wanted to have.  So I decided to make sure I had it with my own children and grandchildren.  Happily, I’ve done that.  That’s how I deal.

Together, my sisters and I talk it out and laugh it out and write it out.  It works, mostly.  Sunshine hasn’t managed to COMPLETELY befrazzle any one of us.  Not yet.

—  Lynne

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